In “The Stable Boy,” we finally learned why Regina loathes Snow/Mary Margaret with such burning intensity. But even with that mystery solved, we were handed more questions than answers.
In FairyTale, a younger and sweet Regina endures constant criticism from her nasty sorcerer of a mother (Barbara Hershey). But she is comforted by her secret beau, Daniel, the stable boy. While Regina clearly loves the boy, her mother is the worst kind of snob–a formerly poor girl who married ‘up’ and Regina knows she would never approve of their union. So she tells Daniel they must keep their relationship secret. (Attention As the World Turns fans: does this remind you of Holden and Lily?)
Suddenly, a young girl flies by them on a runaway horse. Regina, an expert horsewoman, manages to stop the horse and plucks the hapless girl from the horse’s back. Lo and behold, it’s a pint-sized Snow White! (Played by Bailee Madison, a dead ringer for a pre-teen Ginnifer Goodwin.) The two bond over the rescue and Regina proves herself surprisingly kind. This is not the horrible woman we’ve all come to know (and love).
After the rescue, King Leopold, indebted to Regina for saving his daughter’s life, proposes marriage. Shocked and appalled, Regina is speechless, but Mommy Dearest replies with an emphatic “Yes!”
Dismayed, Regina runs to the stables and asks Daniel to run away with her. Unfortunately, Snow is watching and dashes out of the stalls, completely disillusioned at her future step-mother’s actions. Regina chases after her and tells Snow that although her father is a “kind and fair man” she doesn’t love him. She further explains that “true love is the most powerful magic”. Snow understands and promises to keep Regina’s plans to run away a secret. Why do I have a very bad feeling about her ability to keep her little mouth shut?
Sure enough, young Snow is no match for the Evil Queen Mom and she squeals like a pig after the elder woman manipulates the truth from her. Mama next finds Regina and Daniel in the stables, preparing to elope. Feigning understanding, she approaches Daniel and tells him “you always have to do what’s best for your children,” then promptly rips his heart out of his chest. So that’s where Regina learned that little trick.
After murdering Regina’s true love, Mama tells her daughter that love is weakness, but true power endures. Now that’s cold.
We next see Regina being fitted for a wedding dress. She will marry the King, after all. Little Snow at first assumes Regina is marrying her true love Daniel. After Regina corrects her, Snow asks if she is angry at her for telling her mother the truth. Regina becomes utterly still before telling the girl she wasn’t mad at all. It’s as if, in that very instant of utter quiet, the viewer can see the metamorphisis in Regina. Gone is the sweet girl, and in her place a bitter, vengeful woman is born. (In fact, this woman states that she should have let Snow die on that horse.)
Meanwhile, back in Storybrooke, Mr. Gold, reluctant to go to jail over his battery charge, tells the Mayor he needs her influence to help him. In exchange, he can help her frame Mary Margaret for Kathryn’s murder. WHAT? I thought he was on Emma and MM’s side? What is he doing?
In happier news, August has actual lines in this episode! He stumbles upon Emma looking through the story book and helps Emma realize she needs to return to the beginning of Kathryn’s disappearance. Together, they head back to the T(r)oll Bridge and find a piece of a shovel.
With Henry’s help, they then sneak into Mayor Regina’s garage and find a broken shovel. And the shard fits perfectly–like the final piece of a puzzle. Thrilled, Emma returns with a search warrant, only to find the shovel gone. Convinced August has sold her out, Emma reams him out, but he tells her he would never betray her. He says it with such convinction, and I wonder why does this man, who supposedly just met Emma, have such a strong desire to help her?
Emma also blasts Mr. Gold, but he tells Emma not to panic just yet, and that he still has time to “work a little magic.” Whose side is he on, anway? Or is he playing both sides against the middle?
Meanwhile, Regina visits MM in her jail cell. MM, unsurprisingly, starts crying and wailing and tells the Mayor she doesn’t deserve to go to prison, because she didn’t kill Kathryn. Regina coldly replies, “I know. But you DO deserve this.” And we next see Regina clutching the ring Daniel gave her in Storybrooke, proclaiming, “We got her, Daniel.” Apparently, revenge has a very long memory.
Later, in pure frustration, Emma smashes a vase of tulips that Sidney brought her. As the flowers fall to the floor, a bug (as in listening device) is revealed. Finally, Emma learns the truth about her ‘ally’ Sidney. And now she knows how Regina learned of the search warrant in time to hide the shovel. Ashamed, she apologizes to August for doubting him and tells him she’s been trusting the wrong people. Are August and Emma about to become a team? I really hope so.
Just then, this newly-minted team hear a scream from the alley. It comes from Ruby, who has discovered a woman, lying face-down. Emma runs to the prone figure, turns her over, and discovers a very-much-alive Kathryn!
Has Mr. Gold a.k.a. Rumplestiltskin resurrected the heartless (literally) Kathryn? And why? It seems for every answer revealed within this episode, even more questions were raised. And this is the OUAT that works best.